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Back to Paper Details
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Accountability as a Deterrent to Corruption: New Evidence from Brazilian Municipalities

Civil Society
Comparative Politics
Democracy
Elections
Political Economy
Quantitative
Institutions
Bianca Vaz Mondo
Hertie School of Governance
Bianca Vaz Mondo
Hertie School of Governance
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Abstract

Democracy has been highlighted in the comparative empirical literature as a main determinant of corruption, explained mainly by the expected effect of electoral accountability as a deterrent to corrupt behavior. However, this argument has not been corroborated by recent studies examining the long-term effects of electoral accountability on corruption. In fact, an extensive literature on the electoral consequences of corruption challenges the assumption that voters are likely to punish corrupt politicians, revealing that, more often than not, they continue to support corrupt incumbents at the ballot box. This paper addresses this puzzle by arguing that the existing literature has placed too much emphasis on the electoral component of accountability and overlooked other accountability mechanisms that are likely to exercise a similar deterrent effect on corruption by public officials. Based on insights from discussions on the dimensions of accountability, the study seeks to further examine the deterrent effect of accountability on corruption by examining simultaneously electoral, social (as components of vertical accountability) and horizontal accountability as relevant explanatory factors of corruption. For this purpose, an original dataset of 150 Brazilian municipalities is used, including unique concrete measures of corruption extracted from municipal audit reports. The analysis aims to contribute both to the literature on electoral accountability and to the broader question of how democracy affects corruption levels in a political system.